A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

The Dating Dilemma: Four Tips on Helping your Teen and Yourself

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on February 25, 2015

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Teen_in_LoveAnyone who has ever been married or in a long-term partnership, whether successfully or not, can attest to the fact that good relationships take time, effort and practice. It may be hard to imagine that the mercurial nature of your teenager's dating experiences may actually be helpful and healthy.

Yet, the teenage years potentially provide a variety of rehearsal relationships. Here are four ways to support your teen as they navigate this new, and challenging social territory:

  1. Resist teasing your teenager about their love lives. If you tease them about someone they like, they may choose not to share that sort of information with you again. If you tease them about their lack of interest or experience with dating, they end up feeling overly self-conscious and even humiliated.
  2. Don’t judge their choices. They may make a series of really bad ones; however, it's better that they do that now than when they are adults. We have little influence on who they like, and the risk of being judgmental and critical is that the allure may become enhanced if your teen is seeking ways to individuate.
  3. Try not to get too attached to their significant other. If you really like their current choice in a partner, that’s wonderful. But it probably won’t last so hold back from including a teenage girlfriend or boyfriend in your holiday card or next year’s summer vacation. Additionally, always provide enough space for your teen to decide that they are no longer interested. Parental expectations can be a burden and can keep a young person feeling trapped in an unwanted relationship.
  4. Stay out of the drama. Practice reflective listening and be mindful that teenagers often break-up and get back together very quickly. Don’t make the mistake of saying something like, “I never liked her anyway.” Your teenager really just needs you to listen. Let their friends do the opinion sharing.

If you fear your child is in an abusive relationship, by all means seek professional help immediately. But, the typical vagaries of teenage dating are an integral part of the maturation process. Your child may experience the highs of their first love and the lows of their first rejection or break-up, but they are also learning through experience, rather than instruction, about what they want in a partner, how to share their lives with someone else, and the full range of human emotion.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens

Linda Rosenberg McGuire

Written by Linda Rosenberg McGuire

Linda Rosenberg McGuire is the Dean of Students at Westtown School in West Chester, PA. She is a parenting coach, consultant, speaker, and avid writer, providing insight, support, and education for parents and teachers who live and work with teenagers. She works with schools to inspire and reinvigorate their faculty to work successfully with even the most challenging students. Linda is passionate about helping parents develop more effective relationships with their teenagers, stressing the importance of listening, limit-setting, and building competence, character, and independence. Linda has 30 years of experience working with children, most of that time focused on parent-teen relationships. Linda began her career as a caseworker and trip leader for teens-at-risk, leading to work as a community mental health therapist and a school-based counselor. For the past 12 years Linda has been employed in independent school administration, working with teenagers, parents, and faculty as a program director and a dean.Linda received her BA from Bowdoin College, her MSW from the University of New England, and her Master of Organizational Leadership from Nichols College.